Is Monogamy Right For You? What It Is And How It Works

Medically reviewed by Lauren Fawley , LPC
Updated February 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Monogamy—originating from the late Latin “monogamia”—is a state or practice where two partners sexually and romantically commit only to the other person. In many modern relationships, this involves having only one partner for sexual and romantic endeavors, regardless of marital status. Serial monogamy—committing to one partner at a time but not for life—is one of the most common relationship structures; many nonmonogamous relationships are stigmatized by Western cultures.

If you are unsure about your preferred relationship structure, or if you or someone you’re involved with is considering changing the structure of your current relationship, an online therapist can be a helpful resource.

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Unsure if a monogamous relationship is right for you?

The psychology of monogamy

The definition of monogamy is a union with only one person at a time, sometimes referred to as "pair-bonding," and is a type of romantic relationship structure. Whether or not monogamy is the innate form of relationships among humans is undetermined. Some studies theorize that, while infidelity and having more than one spouse are common features of many relationships, serial monogamous relationships may be a more frequent and common form of human relationships. Other studies elaborate on why monogamous marriage may be seen more commonly, proposing that individuals vary in sexual, romantic, reproductive, and parenting behavior and that social stigma is the driver that makes many people identify as monogamous.

Some people prefer monogamous relationships, while others prefer consensually non-monogamous, polyamorous, or open relationships. Open or polyamorous relationships are generally not to be confused with concepts like polygamy, which involves having several spouses at the same time and is illegal in many parts of the world.

Why do some choose monogamy?


Monogamy is uncommon among most other mammals, with 3-5% engaging in strictly monogamous relationships with a mate of the opposite sex. And in fact, humans are no outlier: less than 20% of cultures exhibit strictly monogamous behavior. Many more present a mix where monogamy is just one common structure among several.

Evolutionarily, there is some evidence that having multiple partners can be beneficial. Some scientists postulate that parental involvement originating from non-monogamous bonding allowed for the provision of extra food for offspring, enabling the evolution of the large brains that define our species. As one researcher put it, “the optimal evolutionary strategy is monogamy when necessary, polygamy when possible”.

Regardless of theories on the development of relationship structures in human history, many people choose to pursue social monogamy, committing to only one mate and having just one sexual partner at a time. Some may feel safer with monogamy, and some may prefer strictly monogamous romantic relationships due to their religious beliefs, life experiences, personal preferences, or a desire to avoid the social stigma associated with non-monogamy, such as having more than one wife.

Online therapy for relationships

Unsure if a monogamous relationship is right for you?

If you feel unsure about what type of relationship is right for you or your relationship, you may consider seeking the guidance of a couple’s therapist through online therapy. A 2022 study found that online couples therapy is as effective as in-person therapy. 

Additionally, online therapy can provide a physical barrier from your therapist, which some people find can lower their fear of judgment or stigma and help them remain open and relaxed during sessions. Unlike individual therapy, which is frequently covered by insurance, couples therapy is less commonly covered. For these individuals, online couples therapy may be less expensive than in-person therapy.


Relationship structures are not one-size-fits-all. For some, monogamous relationships may be more desirable, and for others, consensual non-monogamous relationships are more appealing. Either way, consent is an important aspect of a healthy relationship. Online therapy sources, like BetterHelp, can match you with a licensed therapist who can help you understand your relationship structure preferences.
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